Black Desert – Interview with developer Pearl Abyss

This interview was actually sent to Pearl Abyss last September, but due to lack of English speaking staff, it was subsequently delayed. Better late than never! Black Desert is the Korean studio’s first MMORPG, which is led by the creator of Webzen’s Continent of the Ninth (C9).

A rare genre consisting of open world action combat with medieval-influenced design, Black Desert’s stunning visuals took the MMORPG industry by surprise as well. In this interview, we will be seeking to know more about the game features and what makes the game tick.


Question: Can you introduce yourself to the readers?

Answer : Hi, this is Brian Oh, the Director of Business Development, at Pearl Abyss Corp. Our company has employed around 60 people to work on the Black Desert project for now, many of whom have been working together for years. We are extremely excited to meet and introduce ourselves to Western users interested in Black Desert through MMO Culture.

Question: I read that Black Desert’s game engine is self-developed. Why not use CryEngine or Unreal Engine?

Answer : Early in the development of Pearl Abyss, we aspired to create an entirely different game from typical MMORPGs available today, including the rendering of art and graphics. At the same time, we needed an engine that would be able to meet the technical requirements of a large scale castle siege.

So with an abundance of in-house experience in developing game engines, gained through previous projects, we made our own. We felt that utilizing our own engine would help us with debugging and customization.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: While the screenshots and video look amazing, gamers were voicing concerns if an expensive and powerful system is needed to play Black Desert.

Answer: We are currently trying to lower the hardware specs needed for Western users to play our game.

Question: Why the departure from C9’s dungeon-based system to a seamless, open world in Black Desert?

Answer: C9 and Black Desert are different games in many ways. C9 is an action MORPG that focused on dynamic combat, such as that in console games. In contrast, Black Desert is a MMORPG that seeks to provide users with a variety of exciting and entertaining challenges.

In Black Desert, users are able to experience more diverse gameplay than that of a MORPG and are able to interact with other players in a seamless open world. Creating a realistic world where a lot of events could take place was one of our main objectives for the game design.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: Do briefly tell us about Black Desert’s story and what roles do gamers play in the game.

Answer: The world of “Black Desert” has been divided into two countries, the Republic of Calpheon and the Kingdom of Valencia, who compete for Black Stone, an essential energy resource. These two countries are culturally and religiously different. Whereas Calpheon is more of a materialistic civilization, people in Valencia pursue spiritual values.

“Black Stones” litter the desert area separating the two countries, known to the people of Calpheon as the “Black Desert”. The people of Valencia call this area the “Red Desert” because of the blood that stains its sand. The story takes place during the course of an endless war, from which both countries have been devastated and many people are sick and tired. Here, users must write their own individual story as part of the epic that is the “Black Desert.”

Question: What inspired the medieval/ middle-ages design compared to a full-fantasy one? And why in the desert?

Answer: We chose to set the background of Black Desert between the Middle-ages and Renaissance period, as this was a time of reform and exploration of the outside world. The imagery of that period is quite well matched to our initial concepts for Black Desert. Secondly, people tend to associate the desert with ancient ruins, treasures, or culture. Moreover, the vastness of deserts stirs up feelings of continuous conflict and struggle.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: How many races and classes are being planned? Will the classes be gender-locked (only female archers, only male warriors)?

Answer: As you may have noticed in the official trailers, we are preparing many classes of fighters, archers, tamers, sorceresses, predators (Giant), wizards, bladers, etc. The classes will not be gender-locked.

Question: Will Black Desert be using the “killing monsters + questing” method for players to level up?

Answer: We are considering many ways to level-up other than “killing monsters + questing.”

Question: Let us talk about combat. A Western MMO developer recently said his game will not be having action/ twitch combat due to internet latency (developer of The Elder Scrolls Online said this). What is your view on this?

Answer: This is a little difficult for us to answer at this time. All I can say is that we have created a stable “active combat system.” On the technical side, we are very proud of and satisfied with the advancements we have made so far, and are handling the challenges of action combat head-on. More concretely, we have continued to conduct in-house play tests at the end of every month and have been developing our systems by hands-on trial and error.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: I saw the mounted combat action in the trailer, really impressive. Will all classes be able to ride and battle at the same time?

Answer: Yes, all classes will be able to ride and use their own weapons, including swords, halberds, bows and axes, during the mounted combat. Furthermore, it is possible to attack enemies even while drifting or running. The mounted combat, however, requires the player to be more skillful at mounting. The mounted combat is designed not only for hunting, but also for PvP and castle siege.

Question: Any plans for a more diverse combat system, such as underwater/ aerial battles?

Answer: Currently, we do not have a system for underwater/aerial battles. But as Black Desert is an MMORPG, we are open to implement any system if it’s needed.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: Other than the open world monsters, will there still be instanced dungeons as well?

Answer: Yes, we plan to provide to users with a lot of instanced dungeons, some of which will occupy the same space with the general field (“field dungeons”), while the rest will have a different space independent to the general field. Field dungeons require no loading and start right away, while the other types of instanced dungeons need to load to a unique area. In regards to their content, we plan to prepare a variety of dungeons for monster killing, guarding caravans, rescue missions, horse racing, finding lost cats, catching thieves and so on.

Question: What kind of PvP features are currently in Black Desert? Is there open world player kill (PK)?

Answer: Technically, it is possible for players to kill other players in an open field. However, we will set up guidelines for our PvP policies in order to minimize this burden on new users or players who do not like PvP.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: Castle siege is no doubt one of Black Desert’s main features. Can you briefly describe the feature to us?

Answer: Attackers must decide to either bombard the gates or use ladders to scale the castle wall. On the defenders’ side, one must dispatch shock troops to destroy artillery or to keep the enemy from using ladders. Deploying forces in a strategical manner around the castle and attacking the enemy by surprise need to be done to successfully siege the castle.

Tactics depending on the individual’s or unit’s level offer a greater variety of experiences. In addition, the number of participants in a castle siege is unlimited, which gives users more flexibility in terms of combat.

Question: What are the advantages of owning a castle? Will it be a problem if a certain guild dominates 1 server?

Answer: By owning a castle, one can receive taxes from people in its territory. In the instance that one guild is strong and rich enough to dominate all castles in one server, it could conquer all of the territories in Black Desert. However, we want our world to be lively and full of interaction among users through competition and fighting. Actually, due to many in-game elements, it will be extremely difficult for one guild to conquer the world of Black Desert.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: In a number of Korean interviews, player housing was mentioned. Will all players have a chance to own a house, or is there a limited amount? What are the advantages of owning 1 in Black Desert?

Answer: We are going to provide a limited number of houses, approximately ranging from 1000 to 2000 units. Users will be allowed to take part in house auctions, so that only users that can afford them can obtain houses. As long as one can afford it, a single user can buy several houses.

Users are able to enjoy the housing contents in various ways at their discretion. If a user wants their building to have a specific purpose, he/she must install the appropriate equipment or facilities needed. In addition, every house is given a special purpose by the system.


Question: What can you tell us about the farming feature?

Answer: As for the farming, it is difficult to clearly explain all the features Black Desert has to offer at this time. It’s not quite different from other MMORPGs and details are being changed on a frequent basis.

Question: I read that players will be able to improve relationships with NPCs and get their help sometimes. Will this system also open secret quests for players among other things?

Answer: NPCs might request you to solve their problems, if you have built up a good relationship with them. This could be an instance field or just a quest. Sometimes they may give you special permission to enter a particular dungeon.

Question: Players nowadays are very particular about an online game being a sandbox or theme park. Which category does Black Desert fall into?

Answer: It’s a little difficult to say which type Black Desert falls into. Maybe, you can let us know when you play our game later.

Black Deserts screenshot

Question: Please tell us a game detail about Black Desert not released to the public yet J

Answer: We are currently running our Facebook fan page for worldwide users. We try to communicate with the overseas users in a prompt manner, even though the users feel it’s insufficient. Please visit our Facebook page for more updates and information. One thing I can tell you is that we are making great efforts to add new classes, actions, and end-contents. Please continue to support Black Desert.

Question: Any plans for a Western release down the road?

Answer: We are in search of reputable publishing partners who are capable of delivering our game efficiently to local markets. Currently, we are in negotiation with many US and European partners, so hopefully there will be good news soon.

Thank you so much for the interview!